Nigeria. The unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta declined since President Umaru Yar’Adua in June repeated an offer of amnesty to the rebels who have attacked oil facilities for several years, leading to significantly reduced production. According to countryaah, the government released rebel group MEND (Nigerian Liberation Movement) leader Henry Okah, who has been incarcerated since being expelled from Angola in 2008, after publicly renouncing the violence. MEND first responded to the offer by, for the first time, attacking a facility in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, far away from the normal operation area of the operation. Then the rebels began to give up their weapons. Despite often contradictory messages from the loosely organized movement, a large majority of members appeared to have given up the fight in the fall.
In November, the European Commission allocated approximately SEK 7 billion to development projects in Nigeria. The money will mainly be devoted to peace building in the Niger Delta, fighting corruption and strengthening human rights. In July, Nigeria signed an agreement with Niger and Algeria to build a pipeline for Nigerian gas through the Sahara to Europe. A number of foreign companies showed interest in the project, which was estimated to cost about USD 13 billion.
In June, Shell’s oil company settled in favor with relatives of activists from the Ogoni people who were executed in 1995 by the then military regime. The relatives had sued Shell before a court in the United States, and the settlement was closed the week before the case would have been filed there. The Ogony group accused Shell of participating in murders, torture and other abuses in the Niger Delta. The company denied debt but agreed to pay $ 15.5 million in damages as a “reconciliation gesture”.
As unrest worsened in the south, another conflict flared up in the north, where violent fighting was fought in July and August between militant Islamists and the security forces. Mainly, it was members of a Taliban-like movement called Boko Haram (roughly Western education is a sin) that attacked police stations after several of its leaders had been arrested for information that they had begun to arm themselves. After great efforts by the police and extra military, hundreds of members could be arrested and a few hundred women and children who kept the movement captive were released. About 800 people were killed, most Islamists, during the fighting week. Among those killed was the group’s founder Muhammad Yusuf, who was shot dead at a police station after being arrested.
In August, the heads of five of the country’s largest banks were dismissed after they were revealed to have granted gigantic loans on loose grounds. Among those who took out virtually unsecured loans were companies, state governments and several of Nigeria’s richest people. The central bank saved the banks with a crisis package of US $ 2.6 billion for not collapsing, which could have thrown the entire banking system in the country.
Just before Christmas, an opposition politician turned to a federal court with a request that it decide whether President Umaru Yar’Adua is capable of leading the country. Yar’Adua has been cared for at the end of November in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Foreign policy and international relations
By virtue of its position as Africa’s most populous country, as well as its economic and military strength, Nigeria has been regarded as Africa’s great power, and has taken aim at being a leading player in African and global politics. Nigeria was one of the leaders in the international fight against apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s, advocating the development of its own nuclear weapons, as a counterweight to South Africa’s nuclear capabilities. In 2008, a cooperation agreement was signed with Iran on the development of nuclear power. Nigeria has also envisaged holding a possible African seat in the UN Security Council.
However, the actions of the military junta after 1993 led to the country becoming very isolated, and South Africa, itself a potential rival to the post of Africa’s most powerful country, led an international campaign to boycott Nigeria. As a result of the reintroduction of democratic governance, Nigeria has regained some of its position as an African political superpower, including in collaboration with South Africa.
Since the 1990s, Nigeria has been very active as a driver and participant in peace operations especially in West Africa, primarily through the ECOWAS collaborative organization in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast, but also through the OAU in Chad and through the AU in Sudan (Darfur), among other things, to protect its regional hegemony and demonstrate its superpower position. Nigeria has also participated in a number of UN operations, including in Congo, Lebanon, Namibia, Mozambique, at Balkans, in Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea / Ethiopia, Sudan, Haiti, Nepal and Somalia. President Obasanjo, as chairman of the AU, played a key role in mediating between the parties to the conflict in South Sudan.
Nigeria has traditionally had close relations with the West, especially the United Kingdom and the United States. Relations with France have been more measured, not least as a result of the French recognition of the state of Biafra. As a regional power, Nigeria has sought to reduce France’s influence in the region, including through military initiatives through both OAU and ECOWAS.
After the reintroduction of democracy, relations with the United States have improved significantly. Nigeria has entered into military cooperation with the United States, as well as with Israel, India and China. In 2007, China assisted Nigeria in sending the country’s first commercial communications satellite.
With neighboring Cameroon, there has been a tense relationship on some occasions, especially after a Cameroonian annexation of Nigerian fishing villages and border violations by Cameroonian forces. In 1994, there was a tense situation when a dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula (in an area rich in oil, gas and fish) led to troop gatherings at the border. In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) upheld Cameroon’s demand for Bakassi, which was handed over to Cameroon in 2008. A demarcation of the border with Cameroon on the Chad was completed in 2003, causing Nigeria to surrender 33 villages to Cameroon.
In 2004, Nigeria and São Tomé signed an agreement on joint extraction of disputed border areas, which are believed to contain significant oil and gas deposits.